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Six underdogs to look out for on the PDC Darts circuit in 2016

Jamie Shaw 26 Jan 2016
Teenage sensation De Zwaan celebrates (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

No fewer than 128 players will comprise a formidable field of PDC Tour Card holders in 2016, and as the new season approaches, we pick out six top talents to keep an eye on.

The strength in-depth of the PDC continues to intensify year-on-year, and with annual prize money at an all-time high, the bar is expected to be raised even higher in 2016.

As well as a plethora of established stars, a host of new faces to have emerged from Qualifying School and those already knocking on the door of the world's top 32 are all hoping to stake a claim for the big time.

Here are our six in-form underdogs to keep tabs on this season...

Daryl Gurney 

Gurney is unquestionably a player upwardly mobile in the top echelons of the sport and is hoping to pick up from where he left off in a blistering end to 2015.

The Dery darter enjoyed a landmark run to the Semi-Finals of last November's Players Championship Finals in Minehead and was denied only by eventual champion Gary Anderson in round two of the World Championship.

Back with a new nickname ('Superchin') for the new campaign, Gurney is on the verge of breaking in to the world's top 32 for the first time and is renowned for his clinical scoring power.

A constant threat in floor tournaments, he appears to have also become accustomed to the big stage environment and will be hoping to use his recent experiences to kick-on and fulfil his potential.


Gurney celebrates victory over Jamie Lewis (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Josh Payne

Widely regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in the sport, Payne has gone about his business quietly and efficiently on the floor circuit over the past 18 months.

A two-time Development Tour finalist in 2015, the 22-year-old is entering his fifth season in the PDC ranks and is well-poised to break into the world's top 64.

Payne's best run in a major event saw him reach the last 32 of the 2015 UK Open, and he will be determined to use the European Tour circuit as a stepping stone to the TV stage this term.

David Pallett

Pallett made the darting world stand up and take notice as he signalled his emergence at Alexandra Palace last December, defeating Kim Huybrechts before narrowly losing out to Mensur Suljovic. 

Having produced some of his best darts on the European Tour circuit earlier in the season, notably reaching the Semi-Finals of the European Matchplay in Austria, Pallett transferred that form onto the sport's biggest stage in emphatic style.

The Shropshire star, who came within the width of the wire of a nine-darter in his second round defeat to Suljovic, has established himself as a formidable scorer, and must now learn to deal with the added weight of expectation this year.

Pallett has the confidence and belief to match his ability, and having already secured his spot in the Dutch Masters, will be keen to hit the ground running.


Pallett punches the air at Ally Pally (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Jeffrey De Zwaan

De Zwaan's impressive World Championship debut saw him run eighth seed Michael Smith all the way to a last-set decider before agonisingly losing out.

That defeat, however, is likely to prove a valuable learning curve for the 19-year-old Dutchman, who now finds himself ranked inside the world's top 64 after just 12 months on tour.

Under the wing of mentor Raymond van Barneveld, de Zwaan now aims to utilise his vast natural talent on both floor and stage and can only improve on his ranking position with no prize money to defend until next season.

Joe Cullen

Widely regarded as one of the sport's great underachievers in recent years, Bradford ace Cullen is again looking to break the mould in 2016 and finally live up to his promise.

The 26-year-old has shown isolated flashes of brilliance over the past 12 months, including a 110 average in defeating Van Barneveld 6-2 at the European Grand Prix, suggesting a long-awaited surge may be just around the corner.

While draws in TV majors have been far from kind to 'The Rockstar' down the years, he has struggled for consistency, but the fresh opportunities offered by the European Tour and ProTour could provide him with the ideal platform to finally take that next step.


Frustration for Cullen at Ally Pally (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Jeffrey de Graaf

As the most notable name to make the switch from the BDO in January, Dutch ace De Graaf faces much scrutiny in the coming months.

Seeded number three at Lakeside, the rapid-firing 25-year-old held his nerve to secure an automatic PDC Tour Card on the third day of Q School, before going on to seal his place in the German Masters via the European qualifiers.

Despite suffering four consecutive first round defeats at Lakeside, de Graaf emphasised his trademark scoring power by threatening a perfect leg on a handful of occasions and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Michael van Gerwen, Jelle Klaasen and Vincent van der Voort.


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Six underdogs to look out for on the PDC Darts circuit in 2016

No fewer than 128 players will comprise a formidable field of PDC Tour Card holders in 2016, and as the new season approaches, we pick out six top talents to keep an eye on.

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